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  • I can not tell how much of her desperation is due to the dementia and how much is due to my neglect. I used to drop everything, drive an hour to her home, and spend the rest of the day and sometimes the next helping her with bills, cooking, or simply sitting with her and Alice, her best friend, enjoying a glass of wine. I am different now. She lives fifteen minutes away, in assisted living, behind a code-locked entry, and I barely see her.

    Please do not misunderstand; I love her deeply. Something, however, is keeping me from being the daughter I used to be, and I practically hate myself for it. When I do see her, she lights up, and though she is tempted to say something negative like, "Where the hell have you been?" (which isn't actually her style), she smiles instead and tells me how happy she is that I am (finally) there. We are close, at least as close as my mother has allowed.

    My brother pointed out to me recently that our mom is not one who lets people in. As astute as I consider myself in recognizing these types of psychological tidbits, this is one I failed to identify. It makes perfect sense, though; my mother has never revealed many of her inner struggles, though she has endured much pain and loss. To her credit, she has never complained about the journey, until now.

    This disturbs me. She is so wildly unhappy that her personality is morphing. Am I responsible for this? Have I placed her somewhere for my own convenience, justifying the decision because the place is top-notch and they care for her better than I possibly can, or am I just selfish?

    And what on earth have I done with the compassionate, devoted part of myself; the daughter who enjoyed my mother's favor while my siblings knew a sharper, stricter, more critical mom? Where is my gratitude and appreciation?

    There was a heart in my coffee foam this morning; a distinct message that it is time to change, time to embrace dementia instead of running away, and time to open my heart to the woman who breathed a damned good life into me.
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